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14 Worst Couponing Mistakes I Made As An Amateur Couponer

14 Worst Couponing Mistakes I Made As An Amateur Couponer

When you first start couponing, it’s easy to get worked up about saving money with coupons. When I take a walk down memory lane, I realize how addicted I was in my earliest days of couponing, watching my balance plummet at the checkout register and thinking how I was saving up every day.

It’s incredibly satisfying and thrilling to witness your coupon printing and clipping efforts make a huge difference in your bank account by the end of the month. While it’s completely normal to be moved by the savings you are gleaning, are you ensuring that you are using your money and time efficiently?

Here are some of the mistakes I made in my early days of couponing that you should avoid if you want to become a couponing master.

1. Buying useless items just because they were a good deal

Every time I head out to purchase something I know I wouldn’t use, I ask myself the following questions: “Do I want to store this item?” and “Do I want to pay sales tax on this item?”

If I answer No to even one of these, the item goes back on the shelf. The only exception is when the item can prove to be lucrative. If the monetary benefit that I would gain by purchasing the product pays for the sales tax, I ask myself if I can donate or gift this item. If I find myself nodding in the affirmative, the product pays for itself and then I usually give it away.

2. Thinking I had to get my hands on every deal

I taught myself a phrase, rather a mantra, that I like to chant every time I fail to visit a store to grab a hot deal: “You win some, you lose some.”

When it comes to scoring great deals and coupons, you’ll win most of the time. However, accepting that you might lag behind at other times helps you keep a good balance in your life!

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3. Failing to sufficiently stock up on items that I use a lot

I am quite dependent on cough drops and Kleenex in the winters. If I didn’t hoard these treasures at every chance I got, I would end up running out of them and purchasing them at a time when their prices are touching ridiculous heights.

Try to make a list of things you use a lot, or might use at a later time, and buy them beforehand when the right deal comes along. Saving for a rainy day always pays off in the long run.

4. Buying unhealthy items because they are moneymakers or free

I gained quite a few pounds in those first few years of recklessly dedicated couponing since all the unhealthy, expensive items that I would normally steer clear of were either moneymakers, free, or cheap. In my enthralling moment of realization that I could afford all the sodas, chips, candies, and cookies that I wanted, I went overboard without realizing how my dietary habits were worsening.

These days, every time I see an item that doesn’t seem healthy, I ask myself, “Is this worth my health?” If the answer is Yes, it ends up in my cart. However, it doesn’t mean that all deals can wreak havoc on your health. I still stock up on candies a month or two before Halloween when the deals are hot and save myself a fortune. To prevent the inevitable, I stash away the candies in my garage!

5. Having a disheveled coupon folder

It would surprise you to know the number of coupons that I have lost or couldn’t find when I needed them the most! After months of staying higgledy-piggledy, I found my own way of staying organized, which has saved me quite a bit of time and money.

Find a system that works for you, be it sorting out the coupons according to their genres, the stores they are applicable at, how soon you would need them, or putting the coupons that are for the same product together in your folder.

6. Not taking all your coupons to the store

Imagine you walk in to a store and find numerable items on clearance shelves that you remember having a coupon for at home. Had you brought your coupon book with you, you would have gotten those items at amazing deals — i.e. as moneymakers or for free.

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As I learned over time, never part with your coupon book whenever you head out. You never know what life might throw your way!

7. Clipping the coupon before getting the item in my cart

Everybody’s couponing system is different. Experience has taught me that clipping the coupons before even setting foot inside the store depletes much of your precious time. This is because oftentimes the deal isn’t as enticing once you see the product in person, the item is at the wrong price, or even worse, the store has run out of it. Save your coupon until checkout time.

8. Buying items that are priced highly or not on my list

I always make for the clearance racks as soon as I enter a store. However, once you are there, randomly pulling items off the shelves that look flashy, useful, or tasty add to your out-of-pocket money.

Now, I’ve learned to stick to my list, and if I suddenly remember something that I needed but forgot to add to my list, I grab the best deal for it there. It saves money and gas to remember what you need at the store when you are there, rather than going home and making a special trip back for it.

9. Being oblivious to the coupon policies of the stores you are shopping at

If a coupon fails to scan, most store clerks will tell you that it’s bad. However, if you have read up on their coupon policy and have it on your phone, you can show it to them and make them call a manager or put your coupon through anyway. This will prevent your hard-earned coupons from being discarded without reason.

10. Using my coupons on larger-sized products

As a rule of thumb, coupons are usually good for products of a certain minimum size and up.

Most money is saved by using coupons on the smallest size of the product that is valid for that coupon. When I want to buy a myriad of items, I buy more newspapers, trade coupons, or print each coupon multiple times.

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11. Not sending in your rebates

If you stumble across an item at a great price with a rebate and somehow forget to send it in, you are letting bucks slip out of your palms. This reminds me of an old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Until you have submitted the rebate, keep the item close at hand as a constant reminder. Financial laziness is potentially fatal (to your wallet)!

12. Not obeying coupon wordage

In the last decade, especially since the propagation of the show Extreme Couponing, a myriad of policies and restrictions have been imposed on coupons. Throngs of people want to mimic what they see on the show and aspire to do whatever it takes to save big. Some people have even resorted to putting their integrity and honesty on the line for a good deal. However, people like us know it isn’t worth it.

If a coupon is expired, it makes for my trashcan. If a coupon is valid for one per person, I make a habit of taking along a friend or someone else. If a coupon entails that some other item be purchased with it or excludes a certain size of the product, I comply with it.

The couponing industry has lost millions due to erroneous use of coupons, expired coupons, or fraudulent coupons. That said, oftentimes even seasoned couponers fail to read the fine print before sending in a coupon for scanning. It helps to read and re-read the fine print each time to preserve your integrity — “The big print giveth, the small print taketh away.”

13. Purchasing a branded product even if the generic is cheaper

Here is a situation you must be familiar with:

There is a close-out deal when you get to the spaghetti sauce. The generic brand you see is 30 cents cheaper for the same size of Ragu that you wanted to buy using your coupon.

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You may feel the urge to find the pertinent coupon, clip it, and wait as the cashier scans it. However, it is often prudent to restrain your inner coupon-voice of reason. Count your lucky stars that you found something even cheaper and toss it in your cart. Sometimes, you find generic or great last-chance deals that cost even less than the on sale brand name with coupons.

When you are pulling products off the shelves, conduct a quick comparison and pay close attention to weight, quantity, and size. While it’s OK to be loyal to brands, make sure it doesn’t cost you in the long run.

14. Being an inefficient couponer

When you start out with couponing, you might find yourself spending more time and money than needed. It takes time and effort to hone in on your couponing skills. It also costs time, gas, newspapers, and papers to coupon.

A few months into couponing, try to analyze how much money and time you are investing in couponing. Some extreme couponers live highly unbalanced lives, fretting over the next deals and couponing to the extremes. While couponing is highly addictive, just remember that if you aspire to be an efficient couponer, this practical skill can be continued while living a balanced lifestyle as well.

Featured photo credit: Daily Amercian via bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

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